Last week, the California Senate unanimously passed a bill that would give California minors the right to “remove content or information” that they submit to websites, online services, online applications, or mobile applications. The term “content or information” is not defined, and could be interpreted broadly to include any text, photos, videos, audio files, or other information provided by the minor. Under S.B. 568, if a user under the age of eighteen years-old posted content or information on a website, online service, online application, or mobile application and later decided that he would like to have the content or information deleted, the operator of the website, online service, online application, or mobile application would be required to comply with this request.
This requirement is subject to two important exceptions; websites, online services, online applications, and mobile applications would not be required to erase or eliminate content or information upon request (1) when other state or federal law requires that the site or service maintain the content or information, or (2) when the content or information is submitted by a third party other than the minor, or a third party republishes or resubmits content originally posted by the minor.
In addition to providing minors with this “eraser button,” the bill would require websites, online services, online applications, or mobile applications to notify minors of their right to have information deleted and to inform them that such removal “does not ensure complete or comprehensive removal of the content or information” that the minor submitted. This provision would come into effect January 1, 2015.
Unlike the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which applies to children under the age of 13, the California bill would apply to any person under 18 years of age. Under COPPA, parents may request that an operator delete their child’s personal information, but the California bill would give the right to the minor. In addition, unlike COPPA, the California bill is not limited to “personal information” — a term which has been the subject of extensive rulemaking proceedings and revisions — and instead applies to all “content and information” submitted by the minor.
The California bill also would limit the goods and services that could be marketed to minors. Websites, online services, online applications, or mobile applications that are directed to minors or that have actual knowledge that a minor is using the site or service would be prohibited from marketing products to minors “if the minor cannot legally purchase the product or participate in the service” in California. The text of the bill does not define when websites, online services, online applications, or mobile applications will be deemed to be “directed to minors” or discuss how “actual knowledge” would be obtained by a online services directed to a general audience. Websites, online services, online applications, or mobile applications also would be prohibited from using, disclosing, or compiling personal information for marketing goods that the minor could not legally purchase or from knowingly allowing third parties to use, disclose, or compile information for marketing such goods. Significantly, the bill does not define what qualifies as “personal information,” leaving an open question of whether such information would include persistent identifiers, which the Federal Trade Commission recently added to the definition of “personal information” in the revised COPPA rule.